By failing to remove Helen Zille from all positions of power, the DA may have fatally damaged its “Project 2019” campaign to oust the ANC from government through the ballot box, say political analysts.
They say the party may have alienated many potential black supporters – essential to being able to effectively challenge the ANC – because they did not impose a more severe penalty on Zille.
Elvis Masoga told The Citizen: “If the DA creates a platform for her, that will do irreparable damage to the party, considering the fact that there are still people who worry that the DA can bring back apartheid.”
Another analyst, professor Andre Duvenhage, said the DA must try to grow its support among black uncommitted voters or lapsed ANC supporters, who would have been expecting the DA to “take much stronger action” against Zille in respect of her controversial tweets about colonialism.
Masoga said the compromise reached by the DA and its former leader, which saw Zille agreeing to relinquish her positions on all decision-making structures in the party, would not immediately address the official opposition’s challenges.
The DA and Zille also agreed that she would see out her last two years as premier of the Western Cape province.
Masoga said party leader Mmusi Maimane had made a decision “that is not immaterial in nature”.
“Not only did Zille’s tweets bring the DA into disrepute, but it was a serious offence that also went into the minds of many people who suffered under the apartheid regime,” said Masoga.
“The other worrying issue is why it took her three months to realise the hurt and wrongs from her colonial tweets?”
Duvenhage said the DA found itself “in a Catch-22 situation where it had to continue building its support in black communities while having to consolidate its white constituency”.
“This compromise also indicates how the DA realised that Zille can take a lot of party supporters with her if she is to be completely removed and I think the negotiated settlement is in the best interest of all parties concerned,” said Duvenage.
The acting spokesperson for the DA’s leaders, Graham Charters, said the party had no choice but to reach a compromise as the matter had degenerated into a black-versus-white debate.
“The disciplinary process was going to go ahead if Zille did not realise the sensitivity of her tweets and, to avoid more damage, the two leaders agreed on a spirit of reconciliation.
“We are confident this compromise will help us in our Project 2019, when we eventually want to enter the Union Buildings,” Charters said. – firstname.lastname@example.org